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Suozzi gives Dems an immigration road map. It could be tough to follow.

Welcome to The Campaign Moment, your guide to the biggest developments in the 2024 election. Today, we actually have a competitive election result to analyze (what a concept!) and a shift in the Washington power dynamics.

Former Democratic congressman Tom Suozzi’s win Tuesday in the special election in New York for former Republican congressman George Santos’s seat is certainly a moment. It’s not often you see a House seat changing hands in a special election. (This one shrinks the GOP’s House majority to 219-213). It’s also merely the latest good election result in a string of them for Democrats, dating back to 2018.

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So you can understand why Democrats are happy, particularly amid their increasing fears about President Biden’s standing in 2024 polls. Here, voters actually voted, and it wasn’t so bad for them. In fact, it was good — again!

As for how good it truly is and how much 1/435th of the country just told us …

Democrats are buoyant after flipping the House seat on Long Island, where Suozzi defeated Republican nominee Mazi Pilip by about eight points.

Not only did this shrink House Republicans’ already razor-thin majority, but it gave Democrats reason to believe they could navigate the very ominous issue that is border security. Republicans attacked Suozzi extensively on immigration, but it didn’t appear to work. And Democrats such as Sen. Chris Murphy (Conn.) are now pitching Suozzi’s approach as a road map for the party in 2024.

“Like Suozzi, Democrats can and should go on the offense on the border. Everywhere,” Murphy said late Tuesday. “Republicans’ idiotic decision to kill the bipartisan border bill is a huge opening. Suozzi saw it, and he flipped a seat.”

Suozzi’s tactics would certainly seem to suggest a road map. When it comes to how well Democrats — and Biden, specifically — can follow it to success, it’s not quite so clear.

Republicans focused on Suozzi having said in 2022 that he had “kicked” U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement “out of Nassau County.” See for yourself below:

Pilip appeared repeatedly at a playground near white tents that were set up to house thousands of migrants, many bused in to New York from the southern border. Republicans blanketed the airwaves with ads linking crime to an “invasion” of migrants.

But Suozzi didn’t just stand idly by. He granted that maybe the migrant influx was indeed an “invasion” — something previously unthinkable from a Democrat — and emphasized the need to combat the crisis. Democrats reminded voters that Suozzi had, in his previous stint in Congress, joined with a small number of Democrats to express support for ICE (at a time when some in the party’s far-left flank were criticizing the agency). They pointed to Suozzi’s work with a Long Island Republican on a “grand compromise” on immigration.

Perhaps most notably, the final week of the campaign centered on the bipartisan immigration deal Murphy mentioned. Suozzi played up his support for the deal, which Senate Republicans wound up torpedoing last week. Pilip rejected it as being insufficient and even counterproductive.

(The bill clearly would have tightened immigration restrictions to a significant extent, but Republicans rejected it after Donald Trump urged them to do so. Some Republicans wagered their party was focused on politics rather than truly securing the border.)

At least in this instance, immigration was hardly the silver bullet Republicans hoped it would be. Suozzi’s eight-point margin effectively matched Biden’s 2020 win in the district — in what was already a good election for Democrats. It also came just 15 months after the scandal-plagued Santos won the district by eight points.

We don’t know for sure if Long Island voters were motivated more by immigration, or abortion, or not liking the little-known Pilip, or even if they stayed home on Election Day because of heavy snow in the district (Democrats tend to vote early and by mail in larger numbers).

Nonetheless, the failure of the GOP’s immigration tactics is particularly notable given how big an issue this would seem to be in this type of district, in this particular state.

A Siena College poll late last year showed New Yorkers had shifted sharply to the right in embracing an immigration crackdown. And nowhere was that more pronounced than in the suburbs, where 64 percent of all registered voters labeled the influx of migrants a “very serious” problem. Voters there said migrants were a “burden” rather than a “benefit,” 56 percent to 22 percent.

It’s clear this was a potentially major problem for Democrats, just as it’s clear it didn’t wind up being one for Suozzi.

The question then becomes whether other Democrats can mitigate the issue as he did. Suozzi certainly had plenty to work with in pitching himself as a more moderate Democrat on these issues. Perhaps Democrats can point to their support for the Senate bill as evidence that they, too, are prepared to get tough if not for Republicans standing in the way.

But for now, they have work to do.

A recent Siena College poll showed voters preferred Pilip on the issue of “addressing the influx of migrants into the United States,” but only by nine points. That’s compared to polls showing Americans prefer Trump to Biden on border security issues by between 18 and 35 points.

Suozzi also appeared to be running significantly better than Biden in the district. That poll showed Suozzi leading by four points, but Biden trailing by five.

And polls suggest Americans, on the whole, don’t blame Republicans right now for killing the border security bill; an ABC News-Ipsos poll showed blame was split about evenly between congressional Republicans and Democrats, and Biden came in for more than both them and Trump.

Democrats have a sales job ahead of them. If anything, Suozzi showed the pitch can be successful under certain circumstances.

We still technically have a Republican presidential primary to watch. And while Nikki Haley appears no closer to actually competing with Trump ahead of the Feb. 24 South Carolina primary — she trails by more than 30 points in every major poll this month — she is starting to say some things that could ultimately matter in the general election.

In fact, some of them are trending in a rather Chris Christie-like direction.

On Trump saying he would encourage Russia to attack countries who don’t pay up for NATO, she said:

“Putin kills his opponents. … Someone who wants to be president of the U.S. is siding with that thug instead of people who were with us after 9/11?”“Donald Trump goes off the teleprompter for two minutes and he tells Putin to invade NATO countries. That is going to lead to more war.”

On Trump suggestively asking where Haley’s husband (who is deployed on National Guard duty) is, she said:

“If you don’t know the value of our men and women in uniform, if you don’t know the sacrifice that they go through, why should I — as a military spouse and all our military families — trust you to know that you’re going to keep them out of harm’s way?”“If you are going to hit our military, you are not qualified to be president, period.”“If you mock the service of a combat veteran, you don’t deserve a driver’s license, let alone being president of the United States.”

A major question has been just how hard Haley would go at Trump, knowing that the end result is almost assuredly his nomination. How much does she want to risk her future in the GOP by truly breaking with Trump on some of his biggest liabilities and indicating he’s not really that preferable even in a matchup with Biden?

She seems increasingly committed to going there and adding her name to a lengthy list of former Trump appointees casting him as unfit.

61 percent to 21 percent

Haley might be going harder after Trump, but that doesn’t mean it’s doing her any favors. A recent CBS News/YouGov poll of South Carolina showed this was the margin by which GOP primary voters said her criticisms of Trump’s mental fitness were “unfair.”

They were less opposed to Haley’s attacks on the “chaos” that “follows” Trump. But even then, voters were about evenly split; 43 percent said it was fair, while 45 percent said it was unfair.

“Can this man run Donald Trump’s Republican Party?” (Washington Post)“Trump’s NATO-bashing comments rile allies, rekindle European fears” (Washington Post)“3 takeaways from the New York special election” (Washington Post)“Why the Age Issue Is Hurting Biden So Much More Than Trump” (New York Times)“Why This Group of Undecided Independent Voters Is Leaning Toward Trump” (New York Times)“Get Used to It: Biden Isn’t Going Anywhere” (Politico)

This post appeared first on The Washington Post

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